Easter in Greece Crete: Easter in Greece is a traditional happening, in which people remember the suffering and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and celebrate the resurrection. It also is a celebration of being together and socializing, a celebration with family and friends. In the holy week before Easter in Greece, people prepare for the most important feast of the year. Moreover, the Greeks follow the daily liturgical services in the church throughout the holy week.
Why Greek Easter is on a different date: Not every year the Greek Orthodox Easter coincides with the Catholic and Protestant Easter. This is because Greece uses the Julian calendar for the Easter celebrations. The Gregorian calendar that Catholics and Protestants use, is an adaptation of the Julian. In 1924 Greece introduced the Gregorian calendar, but only for Easter they still use the Julian calendar. Easter is on the first Sunday after full moon after the first day of spring. The beginning of spring is not the same according the Julian and Gregorian calendar.
Preparations for Greek Easter: The preparations at home for the Greek Easter during the holy week, mainly consist of spring cleaning, the baking of Easter bread (tsoureki), various Easter cookies and the dyeing of the eggs. Outdoors, the men collect wood for the Easter fire and make a dummy from Judas to burn it at Easter night. Unmarried women and girls collect all kinds of flowers from the gardens to decorate on Thursday the bier and coffin of Jesus Christ. On Good Friday (Great Friday) this Epitafios is exhibited and carried around in procession.
Dyeing eggs for Easter: Orthodox Christians dye for Easter the eggs red. Red is the colour of life and victory and the egg symbolizes eternal life after death. It is also a symbol of fertility. Greeks dye their Easter eggs mainly in the colour red referring to the blood of Jesus Christ. During the Easter night the Greek play a game with these hard-boiled eggs by trying to crack the opponent’s egg without cracking their own. Just hit them softly against each other to break the other egg. The owner of the last egg that has not been cracked is said to be the lucky one for the coming year.
Good Friday in Greece: Good Friday is a day of mourning for the death of Jesus Christ. No sweets are eaten, bearing in mind the vinegar that Jesus Christ drank on the cross. For dinner there is lentil soup with vinegar. This day you should not work with a hammer and nails (cross) or needle and thread. During the evening church ceremony, the lavishly decorated bier is carried on the shoulders of the faithful in a procession. It runs through the community to the cemetery and back. Members of the congregation follow, carrying candles. It represents the funeral of the deceased Jesus Christ.
Saturday before Easter: On Holy Saturday, there is a midnight Service of the Resurrection. This is the most important moment of the ecclesiastical year and always effects people. The priest lights the candles of the people in the first row with the Eternal Flame, ‘the light of the resurrection’. Then people give each other the light by lighting each other’s candles. One leaves the church just before midnight while singing “Jesus Christ is risen” (Christos Anesti). Outside the church fireworks start exploding and Judas is burning, because he had betrayed Jesus Christ.
Easter night on Crete: In Crete it is customary to take the burning candle home with you. Every effort is made to keep it burning. At home with the candle 1 or 3 crosses are made above the entrance door with soot from the candle, to bless the house and its inhabitants with the light of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Then it is time for the majeritsa; this is a soup made especially for this occasion of organ meat from the lamb with salad and eggs. Family and friends come together to eat the first meat since fasting period.
Easter Sunday in Greece: The Easter lambs are slaughtered on Wednesday and Thursday before Easter. The first Christians, who were of Hebrew origin, associated the sacrifice of the lamb with the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross. All over Greece people grill lamb on a spit over charcoal on Easter Sunday. This is the task of the men while the women provide side dishes such as bread, salads, tzatziki and fresh fried fries. On this day the wine will flow abundantly. All this in a lovely and relaxed atmosphere. Family, friend or enemy, it does not matter, everyone is welcome.
Easter time on Crete
Easter on Crete: Celebrating Easter in Greece is a special experience. It is something you should just do once. The atmosphere surrounding this big feast and the days before it is unique and indescribably beautiful. Around Easter time there is already lovely spring weather on Crete and you can enjoy the sun. Just keep in mind that Greek Orthodox Easter is mostly not in the same weekend as Catholic or Protestant Easter. If you want more information about celebrating Easter in Crete, you can always contact us.